The series grew from the International Writers gatherings of 1980s and 1990s and the New Chautauqua Lecture Series in the early 2000s. In 2005, Chautauqua Poets & Writers began by bringing Li-Young Lee to Southern Oregon University for a reading and to Ashland High School for a student workshop. Since then, many highly-acclaimed writers have visited. Naomi Shihab Nye came in 2006, and since then CP&W has hosted two writers yearly.
CP&W selects writers who can interact with people of all ages in different settings, and whose messages are accessible, insightful, and thought provoking. Each writer has presented readings at Ashland High School’s Mountain Avenue Theatre, in addition to workshops for students of Rogue Valley schools and colleges, and presentations to student teachers and teachers of the Oregon Writing Project at Southern Oregon University. Through the efforts of CP&W and the sponsors, the community connects with writers whose voices provide insight and wisdom in interpreting our world.